Single-site neural tube closure in human embryos revisited

Clin Anat. 2017 Oct;30(7):988-999. doi: 10.1002/ca.22977. Epub 2017 Aug 29.


Since the multi-site closure theory was first proposed in 1991 as explanation for the preferential localizations of neural tube defects, the closure of the neural tube has been debated. Although the multi-site closure theory is much cited in clinical literature, single-site closure is most apparent in literature concerning embryology. Inspired by Victor Hamburgers (1900-2001) statement that "our real teacher has been and still is the embryo, who is, incidentally, the only teacher who is always right", we decided to critically review both theories of neural tube closure. To verify the theories of closure, we studied serial histological sections of 10 mouse embryos between 8.5 and 9.5 days of gestation and 18 human embryos of the Carnegie collection between Carnegie stage 9 (19-21 days) and 13 (28-32 days). Neural tube closure was histologically defined by the neuroepithelial remodeling of the two adjoining neural fold tips in the midline. We did not observe multiple fusion sites in neither mouse nor human embryos. A meta-analysis of case reports on neural tube defects showed that defects can occur at any level of the neural axis. Our data indicate that the human neural tube fuses at a single site and, therefore, we propose to reinstate the single-site closure theory for neural tube closure. We showed that neural tube defects are not restricted to a specific location, thereby refuting the reasoning underlying the multi-site closure theory. Clin. Anat. 30:988-999, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: multi-site closure; neural tube defect; single-site closure; spina bifida.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neural Tube / embryology*
  • Neural Tube Defects / pathology*